If you want details of our actual trip, feel free to skip this post - this is more informational for other parents needing tips on cruising with their young children.
I did a lot of reading on the Disney website about the various port excursions. Whilst I had read that there were cheaper options through private companies, we decided the convenience of booking through Disney was worth it for us, especially as this was our first-ever cruise, and we had no idea what to expect.
The main criteria for selecting excursions was for our 2 year old to be able to go - though we had the option, we did not want to leave her onboard whilst we went off - this was our family vacation after all. Luckily there were quite a few options, and bonus that a lot of them were free for under age 3!
We decided that since we were going all the way to Alaska, we'd have to do a trip to a glacier - the rest we'd just go with whatever worked out in terms of schedule and availability. More about the excursions we chose in the trip reports :)
The website is very useful and has a ton of information regarding excursions. The booking section is pretty slow though. It was pretty frustrating was having to go back and forth between cruise days to select an excursion, then check available times because each time there was a wait to load the screen. It was otherwise pretty easy to book - I wish they would have listed upfront the time slots available, that would have saved a lot of back-and-forth, or even better, shown excursions in a daily agenda or calendar format.
The most frustrating part was, being first-time Disney cruisers, we had 'last' access to book excursions, and the Disney themed ones (where Disney characters attend your excursion) were all already booked out :(
Some notes of what I learned when booking excursions:
- You cannot book excursions back-to-back - it seems the system requires at least an hour between end time of one excursion and start time of the next. (In retrospect, this is to allow you time to get back on the ship, as the meeting point is always onboard in one of the lounges).
- If the description says, "All Ages" but the booking system doesn't allow you to select your child, this simply means s/he does not require a ticket (i.e they are free)
- If the excursion involves sea or air travel, every passenger requires a ticket and has to pay (for safety reasons, and to allocate safety jackets etc)
Overall, I was impressed with the functionality of the Disney website - I was able to do a lot of additional things (besides book excursions) to save time later: enter passport/ I information, online check-in, sign up for Youth Activities, select boarding time, print signature sheet (authorizing our onboard account).